FROM THE TWENTY-SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST.
LANDRY, NO. 17-C-2680-C HONORABLE ALONZO HARRIS, DISTRICT
F. Caviness Falgoust and Caviness, LLP COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE/APPELLANT: Jody Stelly
A. Gaudin COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS/APPELLEES: Joseph
Roderick Bergeron, Janice Fontenot Bergeron, Rachel Bergeron
composed of Elizabeth A. Pickett, D. Kent Savoie, and Candyce
G. Perret, Judges.
KENT SAVOIE JUDGE
matter involves a property dispute over whether a trailer
home and improvements located on Defendants' property
encroaches on Plaintiff's property. At trial, both sides
submitted expert testimony and evidence from surveyors whose
opinions as to the boundary differed by about twenty feet.
Ultimately, the trial court split the difference and set the
boundary ten feet south of the boundary proposed by
Plaintiff's experts. The boundary set by the trial court
resulted in a finding that Defendants' trailer home
encroaches Plaintiff's property by 0.9 feet and the
canopy on the trailer home encroaches by 0.1 foot. Defendants
appealed, and Plaintiff answered the appeal.
following reasons, we reverse the trial court's judgment
in part, render in part, vacate in part, and remand the
matter for proceedings in accordance with our findings
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
August 4, 1973, the heirs of Arthur Lanclos entered into an
Act of Voluntary Partition dividing an 18-arpent property
into eight lots. The property is described as being located
"at Prairie Gros Chavreuil, in St. Landry Parish,"
as having 4 ½ arpents front and 4 arpents in depth,
and as being bounded as follows: North, by Antoine Rivette
and Ernest Babineaux (formerly Adolph Lanclos and heirs);
South, by Deneze Moreau, Larry Lanclos, Eugene Lanclos
(formerly Paul and Antila Lalonde); East: by Offie Lalonde
(Formerly Angelos Lalonde); West, by Leonia C. Lanclos
(formerly Ignace Chautin).
1973 Act of Partition also states that the Arthur Lanclos
heirs "have agreed to divide said property into eight
(8) lots, all of which is more fully shown on a Sketch made
by Melvin Lalonde dated June 27, 1973 [hereinafter, "the
Lalonde Sketch"]." The Act of Partition indicates
that each of the eight lots contains 1.76 acres and are all
located in "Section 25. T-6-S. R-5-E. St. Landry Parish.
La." This totals 14.07 acres (hereinafter referred to as
"the 14.07-acre tract").
Lalonde Sketch suggests that the partitioned property is a
rectangular tract 824 feet along the perimeter lines running
due west and east, and 744 feet along the perimeter lines
running due north and south. It further states "public
road" on the western, southern, and eastern perimeter
lines of the entire tract, suggesting that the roads also run
due west and east along the southern perimeter, and due north
and south along the western and eastern perimeters. The
sketch also divides the 14.07-acre tract into eight
rectangular lots, each containing 1.76 acres. The lines on
the sketch running west and east are parallel with one
another, the lines running north and south are parallel with
one another, and the west-east lines intersect with the
north-south lines at 90-degree angles.
Lalonde Sketch divides the northern half of the 14.07-acre
tract into four contiguous rectangular lots (Lots 1-4), with
each lot measuring 412 feet along the west-east lines, and
186 feet along the north-south lines. Lot 1 is in the
northwest corner of the tract, Lot 2 borders Lot 1 on the
east and is the northeast corner of the 14.07-acre tract, Lot
3 is directly south of Lot 1, and Lot 4 is directly south of
Lalonde Sketch also divides the southern half of the
14.07-acre tract into four contiguous rectangular lots (Lots
5-8), each measuring 206 feet along the west-east lines and
372 feet along the north-south lines. Lots 5 and 6 are
directly south of Lot 3, and Lots 7 and 8 are directly south
of lot 4. According to the sketch, there is a common corner
where Lots 3, 4, 6, and 7 meet.
at issue in this matter is the boundary between Lot 5, which
is the southwest corner of the 14.07-acre tract and currently
owned by Plaintiff, Jody Stelly, and Lot 3, which is north of
Lot 5 and currently owned by Defendants, Joseph and Janice
Bergeron. The northern boundary of Lot 5 is part of the
southern boundary of Lot 3.
Joseph and Janice Bergeron, acquired Lot 3 pursuant to a Cash
Sale on February 17, 1999. The property is described as
containing 1.76 acres in Section 25, T-6-S, R-5-E, in St.
Landry Parish, "and being identified as LOT #3
on a sketch by Melvin Lalonde, dated June 27, 1973[.]"
It further states
Lot #3 measures 186 feet on the East side of Bailey Road by a
depth of 412 feet, and is bounded on the North by lot #1
(formerly Bertrand Lanclos, now Joseph Roderick Bergeron);
South by Lots 5 and 6; East by Lot #4 (Anna Lanclos); and
West by Bailey Road.
1997, prior to acquiring Lot 3, the Bergerons acquired a
.592-acre tract of land that was part of a larger tract of
land located directly north of Lot 1 of the 14.07-acre tract
at issue. According to Defendants, the southwest corner of
the .592-acre tract is also the northwest corner of Lot 1. A
survey related to that transaction, dated May 19, 1997, which
was prepared by Robert Wolfe, Jr. with Morgan Goudeau &
Associates, indicates an iron rod was placed at the southwest
corner of the .592 acre tract, and suggests that point is on
the boundary line with Lot 1. The Bergerons built a house on
the .592-acre tract and have resided there since. They
subsequently acquired Lot 3 at issue herein on February 17,
1999, and Lot 1 on March 29, 1999.
to Mr. Bergeron and his daughter, Rachel Bergeron, Rachel
moved a trailer home onto Lot 3 in 2003, near, but not over,
the southern boundary with Lot 5. In 2005, the original
trailer home was replaced with a larger one in the same
location, and that trailer home is still there today. The
front of the trailer home faces Bailey Road, which borders
Lot 3 to the west. A culvert was installed prior to the first
trailer home in 2003 along Bailey Road, and a concrete slab
and canopy driveway were built between the trailer home and
Bailey Road. The canopy is the length of the trailer home. A
hurricane fence was also installed in the backyard, which is
to the west of the trailer home. Rachel testified that she
routinely mows the grass beyond the fence line and "a
few feet" to the south of the trailer.
Bergeron indicated that he based the placement of the
improvements on Lot 3 by measuring 186 feet south along
Bailey Road from the southwest corner of the .592-acre tract,
which is the length of Lot 1 per the Lalonde Sketch, and then
another 186 feet south from that point, which is the length
of Lot 3 per the Lalonde Sketch. He indicated that he
measured the distance with a tape measure and also had two or
three other people measure with survey equipment. Also
according to Mr. Bergeron, Mr. Lalonde, who was his
wife's uncle, "showed us exactly where the property
was at" prior to installing the culvert.
time the trailer home and other improvements were added by
the Bergerons, Lot 5 was owned by Mr. Stelly's uncle, who
had acquired the property in 1990. According to the
Bergerons, Mr. Stelly's uncle never complained about the
trailer home or any of the improvements on Lot 3.
Stelly acquired Lot 5 on February 5, 2009, pursuant to an Act
of Cash Sale, which describes the property as containing 1.76
acres in Section 25, T-6-S, R-5-E, in St. Landry Parish,
"and more particularly identified as LOT FIVE (5) on a
sketch by Melvin Lalonde dated June 27, 1973." It
further describes the lot as "being bounded now, or
formerly, as follows: North by lot 3 of said sketch; South by
Public Road (Lanclos Road); East by Lot 6 of said sketch; and
West by Public Road (Bailey Road), all as more clearly shown
on the herein referred sketch." Mr. Stelly testified
that at the time he acquired the property, there was a shop
building on the southern portion of the property near Lanclos
road, but that it was otherwise an empty lot. Mr. Stelly does
not live on Lot 5. According to Mr. Stelly, when he acquired
the property from his uncle in 2009, his uncle showed him the
boundary line, suggested that the Bergerons' trailer home
was over their property line, and indicated that he was
"too old" to fight the Bergerons about it.
2016, after Mr. Stelly decided he wanted to have a home built
on Lot 5, he hired Brandon "Shane" Breaux with
Morgan Goudeau & Associates to create a survey. According
to a Plat of Survey dated September 12, 2016, (herein after
"the Breaux Survey"), the trailer home on the
Bergeron's property (Lot 3) encroaches onto Mr.
Stelly's property (Lot 5), thus resulting in the current
dispute between the parties.
5, 2017, Mr. Stelly filed a Petition to Fix Boundary, for
Injunctive Relief and For Damages, naming Mr. and Mrs.
Bergeron, along with Rachel Bergeron, as Defendants. Therein,
he asked the trial court to determine the boundary between
Lots 3 and 5, issue injunctive relief regarding the trailer
home, and award him with damages for trespass and conversion.
The Bergeron Defendants filed an answer and supplemental
answer alleging that the trailer home did not encroach onto
Lot 5, and alternatively, that they acquired any
encroached-upon land on Lot 5 by acquisitive prescription of
ten years in accordance with La.Civ.Code arts. 3473, et. seq.
on the merits was held on January 4, 2018. Mr. Stelly relied
on the Breaux Survey's depiction of the boundary between
Lot 3 and Lot 5, whereas the Bergeron Defendants relied on a
Plat of Survey prepared by Paul Briley with Southern
Surveyors, LLC (hereinafter "the Briley Survey").
The Briley Survey depicts the subject boundary line as being
about twenty feet to the south of the boundary proposed by
the Breaux Survey, such that the trailer home and
improvements do not encroach onto Lot 5. The Briley Survey
also reflects the boundary line as suggested by the Breaux
Survey and identifies the disputed area as the "area of
trial, Mr. Stelly elicited expert testimony from Mr. Robert
Wolfe, Jr., who was Mr. Breaux's supervisor at the time
the Breaux Survey was completed, as well as from Mr. Breaux.
Defendants elicited expert testimony from Mr. Briley. The
experts' trial testimony suggested that the twenty-foot
discrepancy in their opinions as to the boundary between Lots
3 and 5 resulted from different methodologies, primarily
involving the starting point of the measurements, as well as
the fact that the public road (Lanclos Road) ...